Sunday, July 16, 2017

Vegetable Barley Stew

My grandmother was a great cook. Of course, everyone thinks their grandmother was a great cook, and it is the remembrance of the love that makes us think that. However, my grandmother was an adventurous and creative cook, and that's what made her a great cook. She was game to try anything, like making her own won ton wrappers so she could make her own egg rolls. Who does that? Grammie did. She also cooked traditional Italian, Jewish and American foods. This is one of her traditional New England style soups, which I have veganized. She made it with beef, and my cousin Ginny says that it was her father's favorite soup. Uncle Joey and my mother were the last two siblings, and eventually, he was the last sibling. I wish he was here, because I would love to get his opinion on this soup. So, this is for you Ginny!

Vegetable Barley Stew 

1 1/2 C pearled barley, picked over and rinsed well
1 large onion, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
2 large stalks celery, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 - 14 oz can of diced tomatoes in tomato sauce
2 Tbs not chicken bouillion powder
1 quart veggie broth
2 heaping tsp Italian herbs (yes, I do use them on occasion)
1 TBS parsley flakes
1 tsp salt (to taste)
1 quart water, plus more if needed
1 TBS olive oil
Secret ingredient: red lentils or split mung beans

In a  4 to 5 qt soup pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil till translucent. Add celery, carrots, herbs (but not salt). Add the tomatoes, broth and 1 quart of water, stir well. Add in the barley and bouillion powder, and taste. It probably will need more salt, but hold off on that for a bit. Let it simmer for around a half hour. By that point, the barley will be nearly cooked. You may need some more water and salt, so add it now.  When the barley is done, about 45 minutes in total, you are ready to eat!

My secret ingredient to make a very thick, vegan stew, is to toss in about a half cup of red lentils or split mung beans, which dissolve after 15 minutes of cooking. They don't change the flavor, but they add nutrition and thicken the broth nicely.  You can add more or less, but remember that as the soup sets, the barley will continue soaking up the broth, so it can be extremely thick the next day, almost like a pudding. I happen to love it that way, but you may need to thin it out a little when you reheat it later in the week.

This is what I like to call, Clean Out the Fridge Soup.  You can add in any leftover veggies or meats to this soup and it will be yummy. You can add any vegetables you like in addition to onion, garlic, carrots and celery. I seldom put potatoes in since I use a higher ratio of barley to liquid than most barley soup recipes, but you can put them in if you like. I also like to put a cup or so of frozen peas with this, but I am out of peas today.

To make this beef and barley soup:
Use all beef broth instead of veggie broth and water
Use beef bouillion
Toss in any leftover beef blood or juices from another meal, and add some cubes of beef. Use about a pound of beef roast, precooked or not.
Leave out the secret ingredient.

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